Nature 13

Heather Jean (Willis) Ray

September 26, 1942 ~ June 20, 2023 (age 80) 80 Years Old


Heather Jean Ray (Willis) of Paradise Hill, Sask., passed away peacefully in the St. Walburg, Sk. Personal Care Home on Tues., June 20th, 2023.

Heather was born to Charlie and Thelma (Durward) Willis, on September 26th, 1942 in Carberry, Manitoba.  She was the first born of 3 girls and 3 boys. 

As a child, she loved all the farm animals as evidenced by Heather either sitting on an old mother sow`s back, holding her favorite hen, leading the turkeys on a walk, brushing a calf or riding her horse full speed, bareback, across the field.

Heather knew from a very young age that in order to obtain what she wanted, she would have to work for it.  She worked at various jobs, helping with cooking, cleaning and doing chores on the farms of several neighbours.

She became an expert rider as her horse was her mode of transportation.  The family lived 5 miles out of Carberry.  Her father, Charlie, used to work for Mr. Gardner, the leathersmith in Carberry and she used to spend time there watching and learning.  She could braid a set of lines that were both nice to look at and were durable.

In the summer, there were always light horse races at every little fair around.  She'd ride her trusted horse “Bell” to the town with the fair and usually came home with 1st place money. She also exercised the Thoroughbreds, that were training to run at the Assiniboine Downs in Winnipeg, at Speers Ranch south of Carberry.

After graduating from high school, she went off to Portage la Prairie to work for a local doctor in his medical clinic.

She landed an opportunity to ride in a powder puff race at the Assiniboine Downs in Winnipeg. It was an all ladies race and participants picked the horse they would ride out of a hat.  Heather picked a black from North Dakota.  She ended up winning the race, the Linda Scott Memorial and was given the name “Queen for a Day” by the Winnipeg Free Press.  She wasn`t 100 lbs. and was under 5 feet standing on a scale, saddle in hand, boots 2 sizes too big and a silver fox stole draped on her shoulders with a smile almost as big as she was.  It was a very exciting and memorable day for a small town Manitoba girl.

She later went to Brandon, Mb. where she and a girlfriend attended secretarial business school.  She landed a job with the motor vehicle branch.  From there she moved over to the Ag Extension Centre where she worked for an Ag Rep, MACC and the Home Economist.

Through her whole life she always had at least 1 horse to board.

She met her future husband at the race track in either Saskatoon or Regina and from that moment, they were either corresponding by letters or talking on the phone.   She made the decision to move from Chater, Mb. to Paradise Hill, Saskatchewan and on June 6th, 1980, she married Everette Ray. He had 3 children, Cindy, Gail and Larry and now they were a family of 5.

They both had a love of thoroughbred racing and so continued to breed, raise and race thoroughbreds.  On April 10th, 1984, at 42, Heather gave birth to Ashley and now they were a family of 6.

Through dedication, hard work and self sacrifice, Heather & Everette built up a business with elk, deer, cattle and horses but now the horses were show horses that could run barrels and jump for daughter Ashley has carried on her mom`s legacy, teaching her children all that she has learned from her mom & dad.

Heather has spent many years teaching riding to her family and friends and has volunteered many hours being co-leader in the 4-H horse club.  She also loved planning, baking and cooking on Special holidays for her family.  She always put in a huge garden and spent many hours canning and harvesting.  Heather also was self taught in computer skills and used to make all her own greeting cards with her own special messages which were a delight to receive.

She was so proud of all of their children and grandchildren.

Heather was predeceased by father Charlie Willis and mother Thelma Willis (Durward); brother Kenny & Joan(Neale) Willis and their son Darrell;  brother Grant & Irene (Forsyth)Willis;  daughter Gail (Ray) Fenske:  Father-in-law and mother-in-law, Raymond and Lillian Ray.

Heather is survived by her husband Everette Ray, children Cindy (Ray) & Derek Frerichs (Carley & Davis);  Larry & Janice Ray (Georgia & Matthew);  Ashley (Ray) & Edwin Hardes (Hailey, Avery, Casey & Liam);  Sister-in-law Janice Ray;   sister Laurel Willis;  brother Arthur & Bonnie(Rathwell) Willis (Darwin & Jody); sister Kathy (Willis) & Larry Penner (Amy, Lindsay & Brett);  Grant & Irene`s daughters (Sherry & Karen); daughter Gail`s husband Jeff Fenske and families of nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Heather`s name to The Alzheimer`s Society of province of your choice.

A private family and close friend interment will take place at a later date.

The family would like to pay special thanks to the excellent care given to our wife, mother, grandmother and sister by the staff at the St. Walburg Personal Care Home.


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